Sports betting in America continues to erupt outward from the Barca loungers and ticket windows of the sportsbook and onto living room couches and cellphones in the 31 states where it’s in some stage of legalization.
Upwards of 95% of sports wagers are placed online in some states, fulfilling the prophecy of industry analysts since the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act in 2018. But those who watch games and enjoy betting on them still apparently yearn for the communal experience of yelling at a massive sportsbook television screen.
Satellite radio, local TV and Subreddits are therefore increasingly chocked with bet brags and laments over near-miss parlays.
And that, Betsperts CEO and co-founder Reid Rooney says, is why his company’s acquisition of the Matthew Berry-created Fantasy Life App is happening at the right time.
Combining the Betsperts sports betting social media and crowd-sourced content forum with Berry’s highly popular news site should make, they believe, for something unique in a sports betting industry where sportsbooks and media companies are scrambling for fresh content.
“I don’t think in our world we see as of right now someone who’s trying to do everything we’re doing across the three pillars of business with sports gambling, with fantasy and with content and really crowdsourcing it,” Rooney told PlayUSA.
“And especially at the scale that we’re at. So there’s competition for sports gamblers’ and fantasy players’ time, but for right now, we very much enjoy the kinds of category that we’re in and how we’re differentiating ourselves significantly.”
Betsperts’ acquisition of the Matthew Berry fantasy app
In late May, Betsperts acquired in an all-stock transaction Fantasy Life App, a Berry-created platform described in a company release as “dedicated to providing the fastest breaking news, updates and advice to give bettors and fantasy players a competitive edge.”
Betsperts Media and Technology Group, will comprise, according to the company “the largest social media platform dedicated to sports betting and fantasy sports worldwide.” Betsperts is concurrently actively raising a Series A funding round. The company will derive revenue through high-end subscriptions, advertising and affiliate relationships.
Berry will remain with the new company as a board member and “significant minority shareholder” in the site that he launched in 2018 with several professional athletes as investors.
Berry will promote the new venture, Rooney said, but will no longer be the visible face of the company as he continued his role as a fantasy sports expert and personality at ESPN.
“Matthew will continue on with supporting the brand and being on the board. But I think the community that he has built is evolving and growing on its own at this point,” Rooney said. “And I couldn’t appreciate his influence more on that.”
Berry said because Fantasy Life’s growth and engagement “exceeded our wildest hopes” last year, “we were always going to do something big this season, whether it be significant investment, partnership or in this case, acquisition.”
“When I heard Reid and [Betsperts co-founder] Austin [Harper]’s vision for the combined company,” he continued in an email to PlayUSA, “I knew this was the right opportunity to make this move.”
Berry called overlap in sports betting and DFS audiences “obvious,” noting a recent study by the Fantasy Sports & Gaming Association that claimed that 85% of fantasy sports players wager on sports and that 74% of bettors play fantasy.
“It’s really a perfect marriage,” he said. “Both audiences are looking for any edge they can get in terms of deciding how players and games will play out, they want to talk/argue/trash talk about those games with other fans and they want to know news faster than anyone else, which our industry best alerts take care of. It’s an amazing opportunity to put both platforms under one umbrella and allow both audiences to interact and expand together as we integrate the best features of each app.”
Social space for sports bettors the new frontier
They’re apparently on to something, or at least a growing facet of the mega-successful in the social landscape thinks so. Reddit Co-founder Alexis Ohanian set himself as a direct competitor when it was announced last week that he will lead a $4 million fund-raising campaign for the startup Wagr app, which also seeks to synergize social media and sports betting.
On Friday, former NBA superstar Kevin Garnett announced that he was launching a sports betting content site called Gaming Society with Players’ Tribune co-founder Jaymee Messler, which, according to its first newsletter is “focused on serving as a hub and a resource for anyone who is interested in getting more invested in the action while having some fun and learning how to bet in the process.
DraftKings has soft-launched DraftKings Social, a platform CEO Jason Robins described in May as “an industry-first innovation to create an integrated social community across sports betting and daily fantasy sports, as fans can interact with each other in this shared, peer-to-peer environment.”
Betsperts, therefore, has competitors – including a very big one in DraftKings – and the year-long rush of sportsbook and media outlets aligning with or buying each other has created a new vertical for the still-nascent American version of the industry.
But Betsperts might have an inherent advantage in Berry. Just as FanDuel leveraged its reputation and sizable customer database from daily fantasy sports business into becoming the American market leader in sports betting – with competitor DraftKings close behind – Betsperts could wield Berry’s reputation to great advantage.
“I believe Matthew Barry is literally the most famous individual in the world of fantasy football and kind of the face of fantasy football for quite some time,” Rooney said. “So, definitely it does not hurt having his brand or his base or his influence on our board.
“And as an adviser he is going to continue his role with the Fantasy Life App and continue to the promotion of that as he has done previously. But getting to know him on a personal level, getting to talk to him a couple of times a week, if not daily, where we’re learning from each other and learning the influence that we both provide together, I think has been an incredible experience. The sky’s the limit and having someone like Matthew Berry kind of helping out along the way and really, really being invested in the success of the company is only a good thing.”
Matthew Berry on why selling Fantasy Life App made sense
What made Betsperts the right partner?
Matthew Berry: This acquisition is a natural fit for both parties. Betsperts and Fantasy Life App were built on the same foundations – social networking and “wisdom of the crowd” information that enables our users to interact, connect, and develop audiences. One is more firmly in the gambling space and one is more firmly in the fantasy / DFS space so the complementary aspect of the two companies is obvious but at our cores, we are both true social media platforms and those foundations and similarities make us compatible and unlike any other content site in the market.
How important is it to have a place where bettors and DFS players can discuss their pastime?
MB: I started Fantasy Life with the idea that, when you think about the old online message boards, fantasy football was really the first social network. And sports gambling obviously drives a huge part of any conversation around sports. Having a strong tech platform with a robust audience where people can post, poll, comment, share, research and all the rest of the trappings of a social network dedicated to sports gambling, DFS and fantasy football is a vital part of the gaming ecosystem and we’re thrilled that the combined company is now the largest social network devoted specifically to gambling/DFS and fantasy sports.
What the Betsperts social app will look like
The company plans to launch the combined effort in time for NFL betting and fantasy play, but there will be separate Betsperts and Fantasy Life App platforms, still, Rooney said. The goal, he added, is to provide a seamless transition and integration between the apps while maintaining their distinct purpose.
A “big reveal,” Rooney said, is scheduled for Aug. 15.
The Betsperts integration will not be dictated by state sports betting regulations because unlike the media/sports betting confabs – think Yahoo and BetMGM – it will not be offering a means to actually place bets.
“From our perspective, we welcome anyone from any state, any country where the app store allows us to be, because we’re a social media platform,” Rooney said. “We don’t have real-money gaming. We don’t have any bets transacting on the platform, even though you can track your bets.”
And, crucially, Rooney said, talk, moan, or complain about it with friends or the type of influencers that have become monetized social icons on sites like Instagram and Tik Tok.
“We’ve seen in our early stages, pre-acquisition, where the influencers who brand themselves and interact with other users the most have gained the most following and the most notoriety,” Rooney said. “I think what we continue to learn is it’s not necessarily about who is the single best bettor across the entire ecosystem of sports gambling, but you want to gamble with your friends or people that you follow, or the influencers you want to be on the same side [with] and you want to enjoy that experience together.”